Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens – also know as Pic mineur (French), Donspecht (Dutch), Dunenspecht (German), Picchio Vellutato (Italian), Pico Pubescente (Spanish), and Dunspett (Swedish).
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America, and might be the most abundant. It seems to be the most abundant here in Iowa, at least. The male can be identified by the red spot on the back of its head. The female has no spot. The Downy looks almost exactly like the Hairy Woodpecker, but the Hairy Woodpecker is larger and has a longer beak. Another great way to identify the Downy Woodpecker vis-à-vis the Hairy Woodpecker is by looking at the white tail feathers. The white tail feathers on a Downy have spots and/or bars. The Hairy Woodpecker has plain white tail feathers without bars or stripes. On these pictures, you can see the black markings on the bird’s outermost white tailfeathers. If you compare it to the Hairy Woodpecker (see sidebar), you won’t find bars or stripes.
The Downy Woodpecker is a year-round resident of the Midwest.
This was the first time I had seen one on the ground foraging.
Photo taken with the Canon Digital Rebel XT / 350D and a Sigma 70-300mm Lens. Scott County Park, Scott County Iowa, February 3, 2007.